An excerpt from Leah Segedie’s new book Green Enough.
In her new book Green Enough, Mamavation blogger Leah Segedie uncovers the truth behind the food and household products that are misleadingly labeled “all-natural” and healthy but are actually filled with toxic chemicals. From furniture to packaged food, Leah guides you through detoxifying your home, diet, and lifestyle. In celebration of her recent book release, we’re giving you a sneak preview of what you can find inside.
1: SAY “HELL, NO” TO SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE
This here’s the No. 1 monster hazmat to take down if you want to green up your family’s grooming. Synthetic fragrances are made with a slew of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals are typically not listed on ingredient labels because, although the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1967 requires cosmetics companies to list all ingredients on their labels, there’s an exception to that rule (gargantuan loophole alert!) when an ingredient is listed as a “fragrance.” With one little word, manufacturers legally bypass all the full disclosure rules because fragrances are considered proprietary “trade secret” formulas. Sussing out whether a personal care product contains chemical fragrance is a good way to evaluate its overall ingredient safety—where there’s fragrance, you’ll also often find other chemicals of concern.
HOW TO DEAL
KEEP YOUR SHOPPING CART FRAGRANCE-FREE.
Before you embark on the enterprise of destinkifying the products your family is already using, set yourself up to shop smarter so you don’t inadvertently add to the problem by bringing home even more artificially scented products. When you shop, make it a matter of course to check the ingredient label. And if you see the word “fragrance”—or “perfume” or “parfum”—put it right back on the shelf. Any one of those three words is a dead giveaway. That advice also goes for multilevel marketing products. Learning to be just a little bit label literate is a great way to prevent further fragrance hazmats from weaseling their way into your family’s grooming routine. You can make it extra easy on yourself by using the “Naming Names” lists (pages 273 through 291) to note particular brands you’re looking for—and the ones you need to avoid.
FERRET THE FRAGRANCE OUT OF YOUR FAMILY’S GROOMING ROUTINE.
When it comes to dealing with the products you already have, I recommend taking the same approach as we did with processed food: Focus on the front row—the products that are most constantly in use, such as shampoos, soaps, lotions, toothpaste and various other oral care products, hair gel and such, deodorants; plus your personal items, including everyday makeup, facial moisturizers and cleansers, and feminine hygiene products.
Gather that daily stuff together, take a deep breath, and log some label-reading time, keeping a sharp lookout for one of these three buzz-kill words: fragrance, perfume, or parfum. Set aside any products that flunk the fragrance test; they likely contain phthalates. Then do a little soul-searching. It is quite possible that there are more ingredients listed under the blanket term “fragrance,” outnumbering those that you see on the ingredient label.
If some of the flunkies feel like items you just cannot live without, or if you spent a ton of money on them and it makes you sick to think of chucking them, then put ’em back on deck until you find something better. (One big caveat here: If you discover that there is fragrance of any kind in any of your time-o’-the-month products, please, for the love of all things good and holy, kick it to the curb immediately. Then turn straight to page 272 for important info about the tender topic of how best to care for the goods down there, and get yourself some safer supplies next time you leave the house. Seriously. There’s a whole lot more to fem care than just fragrance, but we will cover that soon.)
2: STREAMLINE AND SIMPLIFY
Try this concept on for size: If you’re using more products on a daily basis than you have fingers to count, that’s too much.
A consumer survey by the Environmental Working Group found that women use an average of 12 personal care products daily (containing up to 168 chemical ingredients). For men, the number of products was six (with 80-plus chemical ingredients). The group with the highest risk for off-the-charts exposure levels: adolescent girls, using on average 17 personal care products per day (with up to 180 unique chemical ingredients). But get this: A related study in California followed a group of teenage girls and found the level of several dangerous chemicals in their bodies measured 25 percent to 45 percent lower after only three days of switching to fragrance-free products.
So the point is this: If you can knock it down to 10 products (or less), you’ll be making a huge difference in the toxic toll being taken by personal care products—especially if most of those products are fragrance-free.
HOW TO DEAL
Take a mental spin through your daily grooming drill. Is there room to simplify? Do you really need to use a half dozen products on your hair every morning? Hey, far be it from me to judge.
CUT WHAT YOU CAN AND SWAP OUT WHATEVER SUCKS.
Okay. So what’s your count? Can you nominate a few candidates for elimination? For me, it turned out to be way easier than I thought to vote a few things off the island altogether, like the seven-step skin regime . . . who needs all that? But others I just couldn’t do without, like my dry shampoo (that shit is the bomb diggity)—so some swaps had to be found. When I first looked at cutting back, one of my big concerns was budgetary; I just could not handle the prospect of trashing a bunch of high-end but hazmat-riddled beauty products. Once I narrowed down what I really needed, I purchased some better options and figured out how to make the others myself. This process took me almost a year, so don’t worry if it takes you some time.
One thing I can tell you not to do: It’s really not a good idea to try to replace everything at once because personal care products are, well, very personal; replacing them will be a trial-and-error process, and you don’t want to strand yourself with bad hair/greasy skin/stinky pits, for crying out loud. And different products work better for different people, so you gotta find what’s right for you.
Instead, switch out one product at a time. When it comes to finding non-toxic products, check out Madesafe.org, which vets a wide range of product ingredients for carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, flame retardants, high-risk pesticides, toxic solvents, or harmful volatile organic compounds. Then they screen more deeply with a chemist for bioaccumulation, environmental degradation, aquatic toxicity, and animal harm.
HOW TO GO GREENER
Okay, so you get the gist here—many, if not most, of the products being sold to us for the very purpose of taking care of ourselves and our loved ones are laced with endocrine disruptors or other chemicals that are potentially hazardous to human health. The next step is to take a closer look at the items you want to keep in your routine, identify the ones that might need to go bye-bye, and find better replacements. Doing that just requires a bit of homework—and I’ve done a bunch of that work for you.
Whether you switch brands or go homemade, bear in mind that formulations may feel different because they are made with more natural ingredients than the commercial products you’re leaving behind. And remember that you are trading way up healthwise.
Reprinted from GREEN ENOUGH. Copyright © 2018 by Leah Segedie. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.